Tapestry event expanding this year

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Community Tapestry event spotlights African-American history in Shelby County.

By Lisa King

It may be difficult to top last year's Community Tapestry, spotlighting Black History Month in Shelby County, but organizers say they expect to draw an even larger crowd than the 400 who attended that first event.

That's why a larger location was chosen, said Sanda Jones, co-chair of the event and a member of the Shelby County Historical Society, the entity that is hosting the event on Saturday.

"We are having it at Settle Gym, because when we had it last year at the Stratton Center, we were elbow to elbow," Jones said with a chuckle.

Saturday's event will feature double the number of table displays, about two dozen, Jones said, adding that despite the larger number, the focus will be bit tighter.

"Last year, we just had a lot of information about all sorts of stuff, There wasn't really a theme to it," Jones said. "This year, we will focus on the early nineteen hundreds and especially on some prominent doctors."

The event, scheduled from 1 to 5 p.m., will follow a Black History Workshop, from 10 a.m. to noon. The purpose of the workshop is to provide guidelines for conducting historic research. It is also open to the public and will consist of short presentations dealing with census records of the era, vital records, cemetery research and records and sites and research, said Sharyn Mitchell, a research service specialist from Berea College, who will head up the workshop.

"The African American Genealogical Group is three years old, and we meet all over Kentucky," she said.

Mitchell said the group's mission is to "find our history, share our history and preserve our history."

Presenters at the workshop will include Mary Clay (1940 Shelby County census), Shirl Marks (Oral History), Marilyn Dishman (Education), Sharyn Mitchell (vital records such as deaths, births, marriages), Lindrell Blackwell (cemetery records) and Pamela Reeves (sites and resources).

The Tapestry will consist of a video presentation, a special educator's award and a discussion by guest speaker Mitchell Payne of the University of Louisville, the first African-American in Shelby County to begin school after desegregation and proceed all the way through to high school graduation.

Visitors will also be treated to many  historical displays, some of them back from last year, including the a returning exhibit on Rosenwald Schools, Montclair and Martinsville neighborhoods, as well as some 1930s African-American households identified through the census of that year, complete with maps and photographs, a feat that Kerry Magan, co-chair of Shelby County Historical Society's Black History Event Committee, calls "quite an endeavor."

Magan said Willie Flemming will have a table featuring the Lincoln Institute, and others will have exhibits dealing with everything from education to sports, to lodges to cemeteries.

Said Magan: "As a member of the committee, it is interesting to note the generation mixture ranging from those who went to the all Black very small schools – pre-High Street [elementary school], those attending Lincoln Institute, those who were school age anywhere from Grade 1 through Grade 12 during the desegregation era making the transition from segregated to integrated schools, to those who have nothing but stories of these days."